In a 2016 YouTube broadcast, secularist Sam Harris argued that facts should never be contingent on the person arguing for them. A mother whose child has autism is not necessarily the best person to ask whether vaccines are the cause, for example. A knowledgeable scientist or doctor may not be the mother or father to such a child, but they have conducted peer reviewed research or worked in the field and their insight should carry more weight.
However, in the world of broadcast news – those directly involved in, say, a car accident, are deemed to have a unique insight into transport policy. Or the child of a cancer victim has an opinion that can outweigh that of the entire medical establishment. Vox pops are deemed to convey some kind of deep wisdom from the streets. The emotional often outstrips the intellectual – and this is increasingly the case.
Why is this? There is one simple reason and that is the desperate attempt by broadcast news to stop the ratings decline. Younger people are accessing their daily news from online sources and social media. So, TV news wants to be seen to emote with its audiences, involve them in the stories and defer to their – often ill-informed – opinions.
There is also a reflection of an anti-intellectual mood best exemplified by Donald Trump’s supporters and the influence of identity politics. The latter infers that the person presenting an argument is as important as the argument itself. On issues of race, sex and sexuality – the opinions of those within the affected group are immediately more valid than those of any other person, regardless of their qualifications or expertise.
The dangers of this are outlined by Sam Harris in what he called “the religion of identity politics”.
Categories: Identity Politics